7 Surprisingly Chic Paint Colors

In my last post, I suggested 7 paint colors that are pretty much fool-proof–predictably versatile shades that shine in just about any room.  However, today, I’m exploring paint colors that  are a little dicier–unexpected color choices that are harder to pull off and riskier to try.  Still, I hope you’ll agree that–when properly executed–these paint colors pay off in spades.  Here are my humble suggestions for 7 “surprisingly chic” paint colors…


There’s no doubt about it: blush is having a moment in interior design.  On the one hand, I could argue that blush-colored paint is likely to be a passing fad.  On the other, blush is trending right now for a reason.  It’s both soothing and universally flattering and aren’t those important qualities to consider when choosing a room’s color?  Furthermore…well, just look at these blush-hued rooms…

glamorous blush pink hallway

The late style maven L’Wren Scott chose blush for most of the walls in her Paris home that she shared with Mick Jagger.  Above is an image from Vogue of their glamorous hallway in the pleasing shade, peppered with gold mirrors and frames.

blush pink painted dining room

This elegant dining room from Domino feels feminine, but also allows the more masculine abstract art and moody amethyst goblets to draw the eye, creating tension and contrast.

NY living room in blush pink paint

NYMag captured this fantastic example of a blush room that feels less feminine and more just plain stylish.  Wonderfully edited, gray shagreen cabinets and  flashes of gold harmonize with the pale pink hue.


Although it’s an undeniably beautiful shade–medium pastel blue leaning ever so slightly towards lavender–periwinkle is rarely a paint color contender for rooms outside of nurseries.  But it’s a damn shame, because periwinkle can look like this…

periwinkle painted entrance

Who wouldn’t want to come home to this periwinkle painted wall?  It’s a “happy” blue shade that compliments exquisite pieces like a Fornasetti chest or antique chair.  Photo from 1stDibs.

periwinkle blue dining room

This periwinkle blue dining room from the pages of Style and Substance is yet another gorgeous use of paint.  The unexpected hue sets off the neoclassical chairs and sculptural dining table and is a perfect foil to the bright red coral light fixtures.

a painted periwinkle moment

The perfect backdrop for an unlikely mix of furnishings, objects, and art?  Periwinkle blue!  In this AD France featured home, color acts as the glue that unites a delightful motley of styles with an air of whimsy.


A mixture of red, orange, and brown, terracotta is ideal for creating a warm, inviting setting where one can feel at home, enveloped by the color of “baked earth”.  Thus, this hue suggests intimacy and perhaps a humble quality that often precludes it from entering art-filled salons and contemporary entertaining spaces.  However, these homeowner embraced it nonetheless and the risk paid off…

monochromatic terracotta dining room

Old world charm dominates this terracotta dining room that somehow still feels updated in a monochromatic palette.  From Architectural Digest.

terracotta wall & mini bar

Justine Cushing’s apartment, featured in House Beautiful, boasts textured terracotta walls, containing her enviable furnishings, like that mid century chrome bar cart.

terracotta living room in a brooklyn brownstone

Nick Olson opted for a high contrast color palette of terracotta and turquoise–accented with ruby–for this delicious Brooklyn brownstone.  Image via Architectural Digest.

Electric Indigo

This daring shade is simultaneously dark and vibrant, instantly capturing one’s attention and charging a space with excitement.  Made famous by the first two examples below, this paint color has yet to achieve the popularity it deserves.

Jardin Majorelle in Electric Indigo blue paint

A historical and magical place, the Jardin Majorelle was originallly the santuary of painter Jacques Majorelle and later the rescued and lovingly restored by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, catapulting this blue-bathed oasis to iconic status.

Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul

On the other side of the world, another painter by the name of Frida Kahlo had a similar vision for her garden in Mexico.  La Casa Azul, now a museum maintained in her honor, radiates a surreal shade of blue, attracting Kahlo fans and stunning passersby.  (This image is marked www.Gardener.ru, but I was unable to find the right page on their site.)

electric indigo blue paint color

Brought inside, electric indigo blue paint looses none of its vibrancy.  Sieger Design embraced this notion, painting the dining room of their offices in their signature blue-meets-purple, shown here thanks to Apartment Therapy.

Blood Orange

Often associated with the iconic brand Hermès, blood orange is another bold choice for wall color that demands attention.  Generally, colors with this level of intensity aren’t expected to play well with others, but blood orange is an exception to that rule, pairing wonderfully with everything from sky blue to tomato red to charcoal gray.  Just look…

blood orange painted living room

This maximalist living room (featured by Lonny) absolutely sparkles in blood orange lacquer, pairing with black trim, baby blue velvet, brass accessories, and a gray-toned Picasso.

Blood Orange + 6 Other Surprisingly Chic Paint Colors

A tomato red floating shelf is a surprising but clever choice for this blood orange wall photographed by Architectural Digest.  A gilded frame and pair of rock crystal obelisks add an extra dose of glamour.

Blood Orange, One of 7 Surprisingly Chic Paint Colors

Raymond Goins also opted for a shiny lacquer finish when he coated this small space in vibrant blood orange paint.  Asian-inspired pottery and a pair of whippets punctuate the bold choice.

Butter Yellow

Butter yellow is another paint color rarely seen outside a nursery and another crying shame that it’s so.  This color emulates glowing light, against which softer decor melts right in and edgier decor makes an even bolder statement.  The fact that it’s unexpected choice is likely a contributing factor to its “wow factor” in these rooms…

Butter Yellow Dining Room + 6 Other Surprisingly Chic Paint Colors

Jean-Louis Deniot masterfully mixed warm, butter yellow walls with moodier neutrals and edgy metallics to create a dining space that is chic and inviting.  From Elle Decor.

Butter Yellow Living Room & 6 More Surprisingly Chic Paint Colors for Your Walls

A traditional living room (found on All About Houses) gets a luminous glow thanks to a few coats of butter yellow paint and matching sofa.  The shade is perfect for offsetting the earthtones of the framed art and the zebra rug adds graphic interest.

Butter Yellow Dining Room & 6 Other Surprisingly Chic Paint Colors

Color plays a dominate role in this chic but sparsely decorated dining room from Architectural Digest.  Again, soft butter yellow coats the walls with little competition from the white panels and tone-on-tone art.  The effect is luminous and serene.

Pea Green

The words “pea” and “green” are rarely uttered in conjunction without at least a hint of disdain.  Let’s be honest: no one ever complimented your “pea green” complexion or asked a sales lady if she had any dresses in “pea green”.  It’s a drab color that recalls a certain divisive soup.  But lately, it’s been popping up in some very chic interiors.  The defense submits the following photographs into evidence:

Pea Green Dining Room & 6 Other Must-See Paint Colors

Designer Sara Gilbane expertly crafted this color scheme of indigo blue, amethyst and–yes–pea green painted walls in a lacquer finish.  Gorgeous, right?

Pea green walls & 6 More Surprisingly Chic Paint Colors

Animal prints and a checkered floor provide contrast to the pea green walls, drapery, and upholstery in this wonderfully eclectic New Orleans home from the pages of Architectural Digest.

Pea Green never looked so good & 6 More Surprisingly Chic Paint Colors

And finally, the room that opened my eyes to the splendor of pea green.  This is Sheila Bridges’ Harlem dining room and every angle of it is delightful.  I chose to post just this vignette (since this is already a rather lengthy post), but I highly encourage you to visit nytimes.com and see the rest of this artfully curated space.  Bridges treated pea green like a neutral (and why not? Mother nature certainly does), bringing in colors like orange, turquoise, cognac, and blush.

So, what’s the verdict?  Have you changed your mind about pea green?  What paint colors did you expect to see on this list and which paint colors surprised you?  I’d love to hear from you.


  1. You’ve opened my eyes to colors I never thought about. Great examples too. Thanks for this.

    • Cher This

      November 24, 2015 at 2:59 pm

      Thank YOU! I’m so glad you found this post valuable and greatly appreciate the feedback.

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